Initial study on the effects of Prestige oil on human health

Environ Int. 2007 Feb;33(2):176-85. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2006.09.006. Epub 2006 Oct 19.


The big oil tanker Prestige wrecked at 130 miles from the coast of Galicia, on the Northwest of Spain, in November 19, 2002. During the accident over 40,000 tons of oil were spilled, and along the next weeks 22,000 more reached the shore in the way of three black tides. A great number of people participated in the cleaning tasks. The objective of this study was to initially evaluate the damage caused by Prestige oil in exposed individuals both from the cytogenetic and the endocrine points of view. Exposure level was determined by analysing volatile organic compounds in the environment and heavy metals in blood. Cytogenetic damage was determined by sister chromatid exchanges (SCE), and plasmatic prolactin and cortisol levels were used as biomarkers of endocrine toxicity. Finally we have determined the possible influence of GST genetic polymorphisms (GSTM1 and GSTT1 deletion polymorphisms, GSTP1 Ala105Val) on the evaluated effects. The exposed population was classified according to the performed cleaning tasks in three groups: volunteers that collaborated for 1 week (N=25), hired manual workers (N=20) and hired high-pressure cleaner workers (N=23). The control population consisted of 42 individuals. Exposure to Prestige oil caused cytogenetic damage in exposed individuals, being its effect influenced by age, sex, tobacco consumption and GSTM1 polymorphism. With regard to endocrine toxicity, our results showed that xenobiotics present in Prestige oil induced alterations in hormonal status, and thus it may be considered as an endocrine disruptor. Therefore, the selected parameters have shown to be good indicators of toxicity related to exposure to Prestige oil. In addition, data obtained point to the importance of using protective devices in preventing the effects related to the exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Endocrine Glands / drug effects
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Petroleum / toxicity*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange


  • Petroleum
  • Prolactin
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Hydrocortisone